3-seed LSU lays hammer down on 6-seed South Carolina
HOOVER, Alabama -- When in doubt, go with the hand-me-down glove for good luck. Oh, and throw strikes while also relying on your dynamite offense.
That was the simple philosopy employed by starting pitcher Thatcher Hurd in Wednesday's 10-3 win for LSU over 6-seed South Carolina in a second-round game of the SEC Baseball Tournament on Wednesday at the Hoover Met.
With Hurd sporting a glove handed down to him by All-SEC teammate and fellow pitcher Paul Skenes, he held South Carolina at bay enough over the opening 5.1 innings to let the formidable LSU offense do its part.
"I thought I was able to command the fastball," Hurd said. "I was trying to go right at them, throw it right over the white. That's the best way to do it. And my glove broke the other day, so I've been using Paul's hand-me-down. And it's got good Mojo, so I'm going to keep rolling with it."
The Tigers' offense kept rolling, too. They pounded out 12 hits in all, including two apiece by Dylan Crews, Josh Pearson, Tommy White and Braden Jobert, the No. 8 hitter in the lineup whose two-run homer in the second inning started the offensive onslaught.
"I feel like we were firing on all cylinders today," Jobert said. "That just happened to be the start of it. We have amazing players one through through. So if I'm in the No. 8 hole and Dylan is leading off, I still feel like I'm going to hit. I've never been on a team that it's been like that. We have amazing players one through nine, and if we just play our ball, we feel like nobody can handle us."
LSU appeared to break open a close game with a four-run fifth inning. Jobert, Gavin Dugas and Crews led off the inning with consecutive singles, loading the bases. Pearson and White both walked, forcing in two runs, and then sacrifice flies by Tre' Morgan and Hayden Travinski brought in two more.
The outburst stretched LSU's lead from 2-1 to 6-1.
But after the Tigers sent 10 men to the plate in the bottom of the fifth, the Gamecocks came right back in the top of the sixth, sending nine batters to the plate, scoring a pair of runs to cut it to 6-3, and driving Hurd from the game.
LSU's offense kept pouring it on, however, to eventually put it well out of South Carolina's reach.
The Tigers scored two more in their half of the sixth, with Morgan and Travinski producing RBI singles that stretched their lead back to 8-3. Then they added two more insurance runs in the next inning, effectively sealing the deal.
LSU opened the scoring in the bottom of the second when, with two outs, Jordan Thompson walked and Jobert followed with a towering two-run homer that traveled clear out of the park over everything in right field. It was Jobert's 10th home run of the season.
That 2-0 lead held until the top of the fifth when South Carolina's Ethan Petry led off by launching a towering home run, his 22nd of the season, over the wall in left-center, making it 2-1 and breaking up Hurd's early flirtation with a no-hitter.
The Tigers nonetheless got a stellar performance on the mound overall from Hurd, a transfer from UCLA who entered the game with a 6.59 ERA for the season. He held South Carolina hitless through the first four innings before giving up the homer to Petry to start off the fifth and then struggling with his command an inning later when he was driven from the game after walking in a run.
But even that came after a nine-pitch battle with the formidable Petry.
"It was a really good performance by our team," LSU coach Jay Johnson said. "It starts with Thatcher. Great start. Had command of all his pitches. Really got himself reset when he got into any type of trouble, whether it was the count or runners on base, and he did a terrific job. We also had a very clean game defensively, and when your pitcher pitches like that, it makes it much easier to do that."
Plus Hurd had the glove -- Skenes' hand-me-down that possessed all that great Mojo.
Asked what happened to his own glove, Hurd replied: "When you catch enough balls and you play catch with Paul Skenes, he tends to break them. ... He broke it playing catch, so I guess it's fair enough that I get to use his other glove."
HOW IT HAPPENED
B2 | With two outs, LSU's Jordan Thompson walked. Jobert followed with a two-run homer. LSU 2, South Carolina 0.
T5 | South Carolina's Ethan Petry led off the inning with a solo home run to left field. LSU 2, South Carolina 1.
B5 | Jobert, Dugas and Crews singled to open the inning, loading the bases. Josh Pearson walked, scoring Jobert. Tommy White walked, scoring Dugas. Tre' Morgan's sacrifice fly scored Crews and advanced Pearson to third. Hayden Travinski's sac fly scored Pearson. LSU 6, South Carolina 1.
T6 | With one out, Braswell and Wimmer singled and French walked, loading the bases. After a nine-pitch at-bat, Petry walked, scored Braswell. LSU replaced starter Hurd with reliever Sam Dutton, who walked Talmadge LeCroy, scoring Wimmer. LSU 6, South Carolina 3.
B6 | With one out, Crews walked. Pearson singled, advancing Crews to second. White flied out to right, advancing Crews to third. Morgan singled up the middle, scoring Crews. Travinski singled through the left side, scoring Pearson. LSU 8, South Carolina 3.
B7 | Jobert walked to start the inning. Paxton Kling pinch ran for Jobert and advanced to second and then third on consecutive wild pitches. Dugas walked. Crews singled to center, scoring Kling and advancing Dugas to second. One out later, White singled to right-center, scoring Dugas. LSU 10, South Carolina 3.
LSU (43-13) moves on to the third round in the winner's bracket of the tournament and will face 2-seed Arkansas Thursday at 5:30 p.m. ET.
South Carolina (39-18) moves into the loser's bracket of the double-elimination portion of the event and will face Texas A&M at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in an elimination game.
Both of their next games will be televised on SEC Network.